To learn more about food and product sustainability and the locally grown movement visit these Web sites:
www.local.harvest.org- provides listings by zip code of local family farms, farmers markets and organic restaurants for prospective customers. There is also an online food market and web forum.
www.geogiaorganics.org - provides listings by zip code, city or county for Georgia farmers, retailers, grocers, food co-ops, landscapers, etc. that use organic products.
www.conyers.locallygrown.net - provides listings and backgrounds for all member growers. Customers can put in weekly orders for produce, dairy products, poultry, eggs, bread, sweets and other locally produced products.
www.fsc.org - the Forest Stewardship Council provides listings by state of local paper and lumber dealers that have attained FSC chain-of-custody certification for using wood products that come from sustainably managed forests.
www.seafoodwatch.org. - provides a guide by region on which seafood items are fished or farmed from sources that can exist over the long-term, without compromising the species’ survival or the health of the surrounding ecosystem.
Support your local growers: Beef
Brent Galloway, CovingtonVegetables
Nicolas Donck, Crystal Farm, Newborn
Burge Plantation, MansfieldPork
Kevin Mitcham, Holifield Farms, Covington
Double K Farms, OxfordJellies and Jams
Robert Dalton, Mansfield
Jim and Martha Worley, Covington
The Fletcher Family, CovingtonDairy Milk
Kenneth Banks, MansfieldEggs & Poultry
Keith McWaters, Mansfield
Dwight Townley, Oxford
Harrison Poultry, Monroe
Source: The Newton County Extension Office
It's 4:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon and local grower Max Lund is getting ready for one of his favorite times of the week - produce pickup time at Conyers Locally Grown.
Conyers Locally Grown is one of the latest farmer networks formed to provide area residents with organic and locally grown food products. Originally formed in 2001, the organization has now grown to 23 local growers/farmers and more than 100 customers.
"It's not necessarily the cheapest stuff, but it's really good," said Brady Bala, an Oxford farmer and the market manager of Conyers Locally Grown of the products sold through the CSA.
Lund is both a grower and a customer of Locally Grown, which allows customers to choose which products they want each week or month by ordering online. Last week he sold black-eyed-peas and sweet potatoes from the organization's pickup location, a copy shop on Parker Road in Conyers.
"I'm thrilled to death to get raw milk and it's good to have another outlet for your products," Lund said of his involvement with Locally Grown.
Conyers Locally Grown is one of many community-supported agriculture (CSA) systems to spring up as a result of a growing awareness among American consumers on the drawbacks of importing so much of their diet from faraway countries such as Chile.
According to LocalHarvest, a Web site that connects local growers with customers, most produce in the United States is picked four to seven days before it makes it to supermarket shelves and is shipped an average of 1,500 miles before it's sold. The time and distance for products grown in other nations and then shipped to America is even longer.
Such a system is sustained because of what used to be artificially low energy prices says LocalHarvest, which has allowed such an inefficient food production system to take place. However, with the growing demand of oil from emerging nations like China and India, the cost of shipping food from overseas and from across the country will only continue to increase.
Additionally as more and more people from the developing world achieve wealth and status, demands for the kinds of foods previously only enjoyed by the wealthy, such as pork, beef and dairy, are also on the rise.
Supporters of the locally grown movement believe that these external pressures will ultimately result in a drastically changed food system, one where the unsustainable subsidized large-scale agri-businesses give way to small-scale farmers who grow crops for their local community only.
"I think 'local' is what's happening now," said Newton County farmer Mary Denton, who owns Denton Flower Farm. "To me, it's more important to eat local than to get hung up on whether there's a certified organic label on it."
Locally grown grows
Denton's farm, which has been certified organic since 1995, is a more traditional CSA than Conyers Locally Grown. Families buy what are essentially shares of Denton's farm. Their shares entitle them to a weekly box of produce. All produce is what is currently in season. By buying shares, the 25 families that make up Denton's CSA buy into both the risks and profits of the farm.
Denton said the arrangement is beneficial for both sides. She is ensured a steady cash flow and her customers, who mostly come from the Covington area, are provided with locally grown produce once a week. Other benefits for customers include an intimate knowledge of the food chain that was used in their produce's creation and which natural resources were expended for it.
"If you are disconnected or oblivious as to where your food comes from, then it doesn't matter to you whether you pave over a forest [to produce it]... smog doesn't matter to you, oil spills don't matter to you," Denton said.
Neil Taylor, owner of Split Cedar Farm in Henry County, a CSA with 150 member families, believes that CSAs are the wave of the future. Just as most Americans have pediatricians and dentists that they regularly see, so too Taylor believes, will they form similar relationships with their local farmers.
As with all CSAs, customers who are used to walking into a supermarket and purchasing a carton of strawberries or blueberries year round, will have to adjust their diets to eating seasonal produce. The early spring harvest for Denton's farm with its cabbages, broccoli, carrots and lettuce is coming to an end and customers are saying goodbye to those vegetables until the fall.
"Right now we're waiting for things like the squash, cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, blueberries, all of the summer stuff," Denton said of her next harvest. "Part of eating local is eating with the season and getting back to where our forefathers were."
Whether it's joining a traditional CSA like Denton's or Taylor's or going for a more casual approach by purchasing food items from Conyers Locally Grown, Newton County residents have options.
"We have plenty of room for both customers and growers," said Bala.
Hosanna Fletcher with The Center for Community Preservation and Planning said she has heard a lot of enthusiasm recently for bringing some version of a farmers market to Covington.
"There are people that are talking about it now," Fletcher said. "If we continue to talk about it, we can figure out a way to do it in our community."
Even with price of fuel necessitating the passing on of costs to customers, Denton said enthusiasm for the locally grown movement doesn't appear to be dampening.
"A lot of people are adjusting their budgets," Denton said. "They believe in the cause. We can't do the volume [of large agri-businesses] and get the volume price break, but you're also buying a different value."
Denton recalled that when she was growing up, most families had a small garden where they grew things like tomatoes and peas. Those days are gone now, as many households, who either have both parents working or are a single-parent household, don't have time for gardening and so buy all of their produce at the supermarket.
"People have definitely gotten away from that because money and food have been cheap," Denton said. "I think in the long run, America is going to have to start farming again. People are going to have to start learning how to do that and not make a big production out of growing that one tomato plant."